“It seems the intensive care patients were discharged, Master.” Diane's words made you blink, and you looked up from submitting a report of last night's hunt over to the officer.
Tamers weren't required to put in mission reports (and they rarely ever did), but you knew better than not to cover your ass from potential complaints. So you submitted the report when going to cash in the quest rewards. Three captured Doggirls, two dead. One of the dead had been by Monica; the feline had broken its neck. The second was Freya's; she'd shot the feral through the heart just as the Doggirl had reached the farmland.
None of the tamers felt the urge to keep any of the Doggirls, agreeing the money for food was more important right now.
You'd added the video Diane had recorded with the dex along with the details of the plan you'd aimed for. And how it went slightly sideways.
Most of all, you realized one of the bigger mistakes had been Monica ploughing through the ferals. Had she kept her distance and scared them more towards Freya, then they'd have entered her kill zone just as Liz and Coco struck them from the side.
Still, no injured, that was a good result.
"Sorry, lost in thought for a moment there." You shook your head, adding your signature to the report and handing it over to the officer. "You were saying?"
"I went to check at the centre for gossip while putting Monica through a clean cycle," your monstergirl declared. "The... your companions, the ones in intensive care, they've been discharged," she reiterated. “They were sent to the Hunter’s lodge along with the others that were rescued.”
You gave a slow nod of consideration. "We were interviewed, I'm sure they've got a clearer idea of where we come from and what to expect out of them... maybe they're going to take the chance to give them a briefing." And maybe take the chance to ask more things and learn more about you all.
A giggle suddenly escaped Diane, she leaned against your shoulder as you stepped outside. “What is it?”
“Nothing, I’m just… thinking about what you told me about Major Huge regarding his offer.” She was grinning. “I can only imagine how he’d react if he learnt you shifted Monica.” A burst of giggling. “I remember he was always quite serious about things, very hard to shock him.”
“Huh.” The thought was an amusing one.
“Would you like to check up on your companions, Master?” Diane asked genuinely, there was a little smile in her eyes as she asked this.
Considering your options, you thought about the things you absolutely had to do... Besides getting supplies and preparing for the trip East to Cherry Grove town, there wasn't much anything you absolutely HAD to do. At the same time, right now you knew where all the other survivors that had been found were, but you couldn’t be sure you’d know where they’d be after leaving the Hunter’s lodge.
“Let’s go see if we can meet them,” you muttered, scratching your head. “Though first let’s check some things, I may buy some stuff.”
“Yes Master.” That was all that needed to be said before all of you were off to look for the items you had in mind.
The nurse had been more than happy to guide you around the town to find some good deals for food. And most importantly, she helped make sure the food was balanced. You also got a change of simple baggy comfy trekking clothes for everyone; you were definitely going to need them sooner or later anyway.
Better clothes could wait.
As you'd been about to head to the Lodge, you noticed Diane's eyes practically sparkling as she kept looking at a stall that was selling collars. You quirked a brow but kept quiet, the thought tucked away for when money could be splurged. After that, you’d headed towards the Lodge, upon knocking at the door, and a familiar petite mouse-girl opened it.
“How may Dory be of service, mister?” She asked in a squeak, becoming anxious the instant she spotted Monica.
“I was looking for the survivors, the ones from the forest that got here not that long ago?” You commented. “They should be inside.”
“Oh, is Mister part of the group? Dory was told by Master Mendoza that Dory should lead all survivors from the forest inside.”
“I was originally part of the group but got separated. I wanted to meet up with them.”
“Certainly, Mister, Dory will lead Mister inside.” She froze as she looked at Diane and then at Monica. “Mister, only one monstergirl is allowed out at a time while inside the lodge.”
“Monica, I’m going to recall you,” you pointed out, hugging the girl and giving her a kiss. She responded in kind, but said nothing else other than pout as the red beam of light made her vanish.
That made Dory relax, lots. Though she was still looking slightly tense as she eyed the sphere where Monica had been tucked in. “Dory will lead the way.”
Into the house and up a set of creaking wooden stairs, you soon began to hear a muffled shrill scream. Old instincts kicked in, ones honed from years of teaching at school- you knew that tone, that tremor, that… indignation. Everything you’d learned as a teacher told you that the room you were headed towards was one you would do best to avoid if given so much as half a heartbeat of consideration about it.
You really didn't want to go there now.
Dory stopped in a corridor with only three doors. You saw Major Huge leaning against the wall next to one of them, the one from which the hellish screeches of the banshee could be heard. He was drinking from a metal
flask. “Mister Major Huge, sir, I brought another forest person,” Dory pointed out, drawing the man’s attention towards you.
"Oh, Rick." He looked at you, and you could practically see the cogs in his head as they began to turn. Slowly, an evil grin spread across his lips. “Just the man I wanted to see.”
If the alarms were ringing before, now they were wailing, screeching, jumping around your head like monkeys on cocaine, begging you to turn tail and run. Run as fast as you could.
On Huge was the smile of the worst kind of evil, the one that was about to dispose of a massive rabies-filled dumpster fire by flinging it at the most frustrating person they knew.
No. Oh no.
“We gathered everyone we could find that survived in the forest, but they haven’t been taking in the news about their new situation quite well…”
His arm draped across your shoulder, a metal vice, a sentence to death. “I was wondering if you could lend me a hand? You know, inform your fellow companions from the perspective of someone with more experience.”
"Why do you hate me?" You muttered, feeling dejected. "You do realise that my declining your offer before wasn't anything personal, right?"
"I don't hate you, not at all," he stated. "You just turned down the most generous offer I've ever made to someone with no official track record and that will likely get me inspected even though it got nowhere." His pat on your back was quite rough. "Don't worry though, I don't think you're a bad person, and were I to really hate you, you'd just have never come back after you left to deal with that feral dogs farm quest."
Your steps stop cold and you look at the man smiling amicably at your side. "You're spying on me?"
"That would be a waste of much-needed resources, I just placed a bell on your account." He shrugged easily. "I'll know when, where, and how, you've succeeded in a quest or when you increase your rank. It's a nifty little tool people like us have to keep an eye on potential recruits, you're not the only one on my list, mind you."
"So you think you could help me with Monica's evolution?"
"I don't see your harem details, so I wouldn't... wait WHAT?"
He stepped back, and in a movement that was clearly too fast to not have been practised for years, he pulled his dex out of pocket and scanned you. You've never seen someone's eyes bug out like that. "Shifted..." He muttered, looking at you and then the screen and then back at you. "Just, wha- how!?"
“Things just kinda… happened.” You shrugged your shoulders. “Anyways, I might also need some help with a Succubus, or more like one of the people I'm travelling with might need it.”
"Tomas," you said.
“You're serious?” There was something shrill about his voice that sounded far too many parts disbelief. His hand smacked his forehead and he shook his head, grumbling. “Genieve’s going to kill me when she finds out about this…”
“Hello? Major Huge?” You waved at him.
“Just… give me a minute, I need to figure out which wall will hurt the least when hitting my head against it.”
“May I suggest the door? It’s wooden and should prove softer,” Diane quipped with a tiny little smile. “Shush.” You muttered at her, hiding your own smile.
“Rick? Rick, Rick, look, Rick, you… you really should’ve taken that hunter job,” Huge sighed heavily. “Well, whatever. Too late, I guess. Fuck. Me,” he grumbled, now pacing back and forth.
“I’m sure the succubus wouldn’t mind, mister Tomas shouldn't worry too much if he used her for favours such as-” she began to speak up.
“Diane!” You hissed, and she flinched, shrinking back.
Huge was suddenly looking at you appreciatively, serious, nodding. “Yeah, you’re going to get far if you can manage to avoid the grinder,” he stated, sighing, and bringing out his dex once more. “Give me your dex for a sec.”
“What is it?”
“You said you needed help, right?” He wrote something on your dex and it beeped. “That’s the number of an old friend of mine, Felix, he specializes in infernals because of personal circumstances. Tell him I offered Ursula as your starter and I’m sure he’ll be happy to give you advice.”
- [Dex Contact: Felix added]
- [Dex Contact: Major Huge added]
You'd just said this before a voice managed to make it through the door, a single scream of “HOW DARE YOU!?” That put the hairs on your neck on edge and cold dread in your gut.
“Well, seems fate is calling for you.” Huge shoved you towards the door as Dory opened it. Oh right. Hell was waiting for you.
It was a relatively medium-sized room, clearly meant for events or conferences with less than twenty people in mind. There were about that many chairs after all, and a little less than half were occupied. At the front of the room there was a poor redheaded woman who looked about as miserable as she could be, shrinking back against the banshee of a woman who was looking like a mad dog about to jump for a bite.
Now there was a familiar face you had never wanted to see again.
“Blaire? Return.” A red beam of light from behind you made the red-head vanish into thin air, her eyes shining with relief in those brief instants before disappearing. Major Huge stepped inside with you. “Everyone? I believe you know Rick, he is the reason every one of you is alive here today,” he declared loudly. “If not for him reaching us when he did, we wouldn’t have known to send aid as quickly as we had, and we wouldn’t have been able to find you as easily.”
Just like that, a deathly silence fell all around, and all eyes were on you now.
You just made sure to look stoic even if the clothes you were wearing were more a set of baggy cotton and sneakers.
Huge continued speaking. “He has been handling himself as a tamer throughout these past couple days, and quite commendably if I might add, I believe his opinion will be of great use to you. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
The rat bastard scrammed out of the room before anyone could say a word. The click of the door might have been soft, but it felt like a death sentence.
You closed your eyes, breathed in, and counted the seconds down. 3... 2... 1...
“You!” The mad dog of a woman approached, stomping her way towards you. She looked clean, but her clothes were definitely not the ones she'd worn back there, more like the same standard baggy cotton everyone else was wearing. “You abandoned us.”
Her eyes gleamed with rage. Her finger was pointed in self-righteous fury, like an arrow waiting to fly and pierce your heart.
Deep breath, remain calm. “No, I saved your life,” you replied calmly, unflappable. “You heard the Major, were it not for me they wouldn’t have found you in time.”
That only pissed her off more. “Had you stayed with the rest of us, your bitch would have protected us from those… those… monsters!” She screamed, her face was red. “It’s because of you that all those people died! That we were hunted down like animals!”
Looking at her coldly, you briefly pondered how to go about this. Should you point out Monica would've likely killed her since the feline would have certainly not tolerated even half the shit she let out?
“And I know that it’s because of you that we went on that stupid trip in the first place!”
That made you quirk a brow, as the trip was a tradition dating from before you became a teacher. Still, as the woman was becoming increasingly red in the face, you noticed Diane had gone from courteous silence to protective, and she was standing right next to you now. You didn't turn to look at her face, but you could guess the nurse was doing her best to keep a neutral expression.
Ms Johnson had control of the flow of the room, her hand reaching out with that incriminating finger of hers and shoving it against your chest.
Time to take it. "Diane."
“You ruined our lives! I DEMAND-uehCK!?”
The motion had been fluid and fast. Diane had grasped the hand poking at your chest, and twisted it, forcing the human woman to turn around just as the nurse then tackled her to the floor. Before the woman could respond, Diane had used the other arm to encroach around her throat and tightened her hold. Ms Johnson was now pinned, choked, and entirely unable to so much as wriggle the nurse off of her.
Diane spoke four words, a whisper that nearly echoed in the room. “You will be calm.” There was a coldness in that tone. "Or I will make you."
It wasn't a request, it was a threat.
You stood there, looking down at Ms Johnson before looking around the room. You waited for a heartbeat. "Diane, let her go."
A nod before she slowly let go, moving to stand slightly in front and to your right as the woman made a mad dash to stand up and get some distance, holding her throat and looking at her with anger and fear. "She's one of them, isn't she? One of the monsters!"
"Is there anyone else who wants to scream at me?" You stated flatly. Looking at everyone else in the room, there was only silence.
"Do not ignore me!"
"I won't," you stated, glancing at Diane. "If she raises her voice, speaks out of turn, screams, or becomes physical again, you will subdue her and make sure she remains quiet. Don't hurt her though."
"Yes, Master!" Diane spoke with a boom to her words that caught you by surprise.
"I will not be cowed!" The old woman glowered.
Placing a hand on Diane's shoulder to keep her from moving, you looked at Ms Johnson with a cold glare. "I expect you to be cooperative or the next one I bring out is Monica. Remember Monica? She was nice enough to sit on your face rather than kill you last time around."
This time the woman went pale and shut up. Diane just smiled and took position nearby. Good. You inhaled sharply. These were people who'd experienced the wilds, the ferals, and knew how dangerous and ugly things could be. You knew they would adjust to living away from danger, but you were also certain they could end up falling into the pitfall of thinking things were like they were back in your world.
You walked towards the front of the room, taking to the small elevated stage so that all seven of the survivors could see you clearly.
"I take it you've been told the run down? How things came to be as they are now? What monstergirls are?" Everyone nodded, that was a relief, one less thing to go through. "What are they offering you?"
The only male adult in the group stood up. "They told us that they can keep us fed and with a free bed for four days, but that after that we are on our own."
You nodded firmly. "I guess it's understandable considering anyone here without a home can just get themselves a tamer license to earn money."
"We heard what being a tamer is, but..." A general grimace spread across everyone there.
You gave another nod as you carefully chewed through the possibilities. You had not entered and played nice; there was little sense on sugarcoating things and pretending things were going swell. Better give them the ugly side of things, starting with some of the unknown threats.
"Monstergirls have been around for three hundred years, everyone has had a monstergirl somewhere in their family tree," you said. "Humans, pure humans, humans who don't have monstergirl in that tree. There are some very bad people who hunt these people down and keep them as trophies or breeding stock." You looked around the room. "You tell no one you are 'from another world', you tell no one you 'don't have monstergirl relatives'. If there is one thing you need to keep your mouths shut about, it is about that fact. Any one of you slips and we could end up all hunted down by the worst people this world has to offer."
You weren't too sure about the details, but if you were going to leave them with a message, then better go for the exaggeration. You accompanied your words with a stern look. The doctor's words had warned you of this danger, and if you were going to protect your own, best make sure no one slipped.
There's a cold shudder in the room. It helped set the mood.
"Now let's talk monstergirls. They are people, they are powerful, they have feelings, and the whole bond thing pushes them to try forming an emotional bond as quickly as they can. Many of them see sex as a viable shortcut. Don't assume all will though." You looked around the room again, firmly. "Give them the chance, and they will stick to you like glue. Expect affection, a lot of it, everywhere, more than you can handle."
Diane beamed at you as you said that.
"This does not mean monstergirls are harmless, helpless, or god forbid you for an instant consider they are stupid. Diane, come over here," you continued, motioning for her to approach. She stood next to you, tall, proud, firm though unable to hold the smile. "This is Diane, she worked as a nurse in the hospital here until I bought her."
"Slavery!?" Ms Johnson hissed.
"Shut up," you snapped, and she glowered back. "Yes, monstergirls are slaves. I'm not going to go into the morality of it or my own guesses about it, but the legality is that this in this country they're considered property. Not people." You casually groped Diane's chest and she blushed, leaning against you. "And a lot of them actually like that agreement so long as they get a partner out of it."
"But..." One of the people there asked. "How?"
"Culture, morals, adaptation, indoctrination, repetition. I don't care really, you find your own answer on your own time," you said, shaking your head. This was not the time to philosophize on the 'why's and 'how's. "Diane, do you enjoy being mine?"
"Yes, Master," the nurse whimpered, pulling your hand so it'd dip under the dress and against the naked flesh under her shirt. "I want to be yours, always."
Everyone's eyes were looking in disbelief, you figured this was as intense a culture shock as you could bring to the table.
You continued. "As I said, they are people, but they also do not think as we do. Their customs, rules, traditions, and point of view are vastly different from ours." You kissed Diane's temple. Your eyes looked around the room. "The people of this world will likely tell you how to dominate or control monstergirls. Considering they've been doing this for hundreds of years, I'll just focus on what I think you should definitely be aware of but will be unlikely to have it explained to you."
A deep breath.
"Diane is not what you should expect from everyone, she is exceptional and happens to have certain proclivities of her own. Still, monstergirls are slaves and aren't allowed to own things, so shows of gratitude, kindness, respect, they will generally appreciate a lot." A deep breath. "Be assertive but respectful. If and when you come to own a monstergirl, you will want to ensure they are loyal. Think about your bosses, if your boss were an abusive screeching bitch I'm sure you'd look for the first opportunity to shove them down some stairs. Same shit except your monstergirl might leave you to die to ferals."
Murmurs spread around the room, and you made extra sure not to look in Ms Johnson's direction.
A pause. You took to the chair, and Diane quickly sat on your lap after you gestured for her to do so, hanging against your neck and cuddling against your chest. You breathed deeply. "Monstergirls need attention, care, and affection as much as they do food or air. Without someone to bond to, they will quite literally go insane, feral. Some will require it in extreme ways, but trust me when I say that they will not hesitate to get physical to compete with another monstergirl for your attention."
"But the wolf-girls..." The male spoke.
"The one you speak of is likely a feral, which is a different beast entirely," you explained. "You were informed about the feral state, correct?" They nodded. "Then the only thing I need to tell you is that ferals will kill you if they're hungry or feel threatened or annoyed. You've seen it, I've seen it. They won't hesitate. It's not until their minds begin to awaken that you can consider a feral an actual monstergirl." A heavy sigh. "Even then, unless they were domesticated before, they will become monstergirls who have had no experience nor knowledge about society and will need the discipline to learn what is and isn't permitted. As their tamer, it will be your responsibility to teach and train any feral you've opted to keep."
Reaching into your belt, you bring out Monica's ball and let her out. The feline looked around the room, ignoring them in favour of focusing on you. Or rather, on Diane. Without hesitation, she took your other leg to sit down on. You 'oomph' at the weight, the chair groaned.
"Rick," she muttered, laying her head on your shoulder and cuddling herself against the nurse as well.
"This is Monica," you told everyone, and there were gasps. "She shifted recently, her appearance underwent some changes. She was feral born and didn't know how to behave nor how to hold back, she was, frankly, dangerous. Still is." You caressed her tail, and she purred. "Monica?"
Ears perking, she looked at you intently.
"Could you stand guard there?" You pointed next to the chair.
She glanced at Diane, then at you, and pouted.
"Monica..." You spoke a bit more firmly.
The pout intensified, but she nodded, standing up and moving to take position next to you. With a sigh, she stood there, looking at the other people present with suddenly not-quite-friendly eyes.
"Remember that just because it might not seem like they understand what we're saying, it doesn't mean they can't learn. And they learn fast." A deep breath. "There are also the taming cycles, which are as effective as advertised, but I won't go into detail about those. You will learn about them on your own and you will decide what your personal choice is on your own."
A deep breath, man you were feeling thirsty right about now.
Your shoulders relaxed a bit as you scratched your chin.
"What else... oh, yeah, travel in groups. It might be convenient if you pool funds together even though it doesn't seem to be traditional over here to do that amongst starting tamers," you explained. "Also, once you're a tamer, you will be given a dex. You definitely should use it and get as much information as you can. Information is power, so learn as much as you can."
"Why do you think we'll become tamers?" One of the younger males asked.
"Because it's the most logical option and the easiest one," you shrugged. "Normal jobs are mostly not for humans anymore because there are dozens of monstergirls with powers that let them do the job better lined up and willing to do it for shelter and food."
It took you a bit, but you laid down the gist of your impressions of what it meant to be a tamer. Finishing your little talk by recalling Monica and sighing heavily as you stood back up, Diane returning to take a position at your side. "Any questions?"
There didn't seem to be any to be had, and everyone appeared to be still chewing through what you'd told them.
"Then I suggest you get yourselves the tamer license as promptly as possible, use the next day or two to look over the entries before making your choices. Decide if you want to go as a whole group or if you'd rather go as smaller ones. I'd say an elf might be a good idea if you can find a cheap one available, and a healer is always going to be necessary in the long run." You stepped back for a second, then took a piece of paper. "This is my contact info if you ever want to send me a mail," you added, handing it over to the oldest male in the room before moving to leave.
The door closed behind you, and you saw a glass of water waiting for you in the hands of Dory. "Dory brought water."
"Rick is very thankful to Dory," you replied.
"Mister Rick speaks weird, Dory is confused," she replied, waiting for you to finish the glass before taking it. "Dory will take the glass to be cleaned."
She left, and you sighed, leaning against the doorframe. "That was exhausting."
"I wouldn't know, Master." Diane was smiling from ear to ear. "I rather liked being part of your presentation." "Well, here's hoping things turn out well for them," you muttered. "Let's get out of here, I need some air."
You didn't meet anyone on your way out. So once you were under the open sky, you clicked the capture device and out came Monica. The feline was quick to glomp your head against her chest, purring and rubbing her head against the crown of your head. "Sex?"
"Not now," you replied with a shake of your head, thinking how glad you were about being done with that particular 'presentation'.
"What now, Master?"
"Head back, I guess, and wait."
You took a moment to consider what else you might have left to do. You opted to make use of the contact the major had given you, sending a mail over to the man called "Felix" explaining Tomas' circumstances. And no sooner had you hit "SEND" than the realization why you shouldn't have done that smacked you square in the face... You let out a curse under your breath as you quickly fiddled around and... realized you couldn't take it back.
"What is it, Master?" Diane spoke upon noticing your grimace.
"I just sent an email to that expert Huge had suggested, should've given Tomas the contact information instead." You groaned a little. "Well, whatever, I'll just see what the guy suggests and see if it's worth sharing the information with Tomas or not."
"Why wouldn't it be?"
"Because I was the first person to bitch about others meddling with how I handled Monica." Scratching your head, you just let the frustration pop a little. "It's a bad habit of mine, I bet Alice would be laughing right about now at me."
"Miss Alice?" That surprised Diane a little. "The other survivor of age similar to yours?"
"That's the one. She always liked sticking her nose in her student's business, I always warned her about it because sometimes she would go overboard." Your eyes looked up at the sky, your brain taking a long moment to properly recall the details. "Whatever, so long as she doesn't put the group at risk, I'm probably just better off ignoring her."
You noticed an odd look in Diane's eye as you said this, but the Rapha kept quiet.
Something told you that you didn't want to ask, so you didn't.
With the sun nearing noon, you sent a message to the others to give them a heads up that you'd acquired the food with the quest’s reward, and that you were up for leaving the town whenever they were ready. As it turned out, you'd have to wait until morning before you could hit the road.